Rings and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by F Javier Gutiérrez
What in the hell took them so long with this!? Not only is this coming out over a decade since the last one, this one has been pushed back at least three times from its initial release date in November 2015 which is only a few months shy of Monster Trucks’s unimaginably long delay, and we all know how THAT turned out! Then again, no one was stupid enough to mortgage their studio on THIS film, but I’m not all that optimistic either way. There’s a hell of a lot going against this movie even before it was pushed back several times, so unless we’ve got the next Fede Álvarez helming the damn thing, I don’t think there’s much hope of this being even halfway decent; otherwise they wouldn’t have waited until February to dump it on theaters. All that said, you never know! Hell, even Monster Trucks managed to be a LITTLE bit of fun, and it’s not like the first film was a sure thing either being a remake of a well-known Japanese horror film! Maybe there’s something to this that the studios just didn’t see! Yeah… that’s a bit of a long shot, BUT let’s find out anyway!
So if you’ve seen the trailers, it turns out they don’t actually tell you ANYTHING about the plot of the movie as they basically consist of the cold opening and the last five minutes. What’s REALLY going on here is that Julia (Matilda Lutz) is a woman dating some dude who went off to college named Holt (Alex Roe) and she ends up worrying about him after he stops taking her calls. Now in the REAL world this would mean that he’s found some campus squeeze, but instead she finds out that the Biology professor named Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) has him and a WHOLE bunch of other students working on some sort of study into a magic video tape that kills whoever watched it after seven days. That is, unless the person makes a copy of the video and has someone else watch it, in which case the seven day curse resets and is put on the next person. It’s not clear exactly what Gabriel’s end goal is here, but shit goes to hell when one of the students dies from Samara’s wrath (the ghost from the other Ring films) and it leaves Holt hanging who need someone to watch his copy soon. Julia volunteers herself as tribute, but something goes wrong as the video is different, she can’t make a copy herself, and she gets some weird scar on her hand that no one else has gotten. Clearly Samara is changing the rules on them, so the only way to stop her once and for all is to solve the mystery of what happened to her and why she’s so damn pissed! No, not the mystery from the FIRST film! This is a whole NEW mystery about her past that no one bothered to mention until now! Can Julia and Holt figure out… whatever it is they need to figure out, before it’s too late? Did Gabriel learn anything USEFUL by messing with the ghost for this long? So can she just come through ANY screen now; even ones that aren’t TVs? I wonder what would happen if she haunted a 3DS…
Oh look! It turns out there WAS a reason this fucking thing was shelved for almost two years! IT’S BECAUSE IT SUCKS!! Look, I barely remember Gore Verbinski’s The Ring, so maybe I’m looking back on it with somewhat rose tinted glasses, but I remember that movie being effective at building tension while also having solid direction and acting. This one? This feels like a fan film gone rogue or, maybe more accurately, the much later film in a franchise after everyone stopped giving a shit. It’s like we’ve jumped straight to Jason Goes to Hell after only two movies, and while I’ll give this one a MODICUM of credit for having an interesting idea (just like Jason Goes to Hell), it’s so poorly executed and ends up being so boring that I can’t even fathom why the hell they bothered taking it off the shelf in the first place (just like The Curse of Michael Meyers). The thing is that there are plenty of directions they could have taken a concept like this that would have made something a million times more intriguing and engaging than what we got here which feels like the worst kind of rehash that no one asked for, no one wanted to make, and no one wanted to release.
Alright, let’s get the good stuff out of the way so we can trash this sucker for all its worth. The movie tries to take the rules that have been established in the previous films (or maybe the first one as I can’t even tell if anything from The Ring 2 is carried over here) and try to apply some science to it. That’s actually kind of brilliant, and the way it plays out is not that dissimilar from It Follows which is a REALLY solid horror film in its own right! Not only that, but there are some interesting moments whenever it starts using dream logic that at least break up some of the monotony of certain scenes (an extended sequence in a grave is actually pretty solid) and the use of modern technology, while basic, is still a decent way of updating the material. On top of that, they somehow managed to drag Vincent D’Onofrio into this to basically recreate Don’t Breathe for ten minutes which is ALSO a really solid horror film! Honestly, whenever it’s TRYING to do more than just putter along at an interminably slow pace, it manages to find a decent idea here and there (even if it’s ripped off from other movies) which distracts us from everything else that is just awful about this.
Alright, is that enough positivity? GOOD! THIS IS SO FUCKING BORING AND IT BUNGLES EVERY SINGLE OPPORTUNITY IT GETS TO BE THE SLIGHTEST BIT UNIQUE AND INTERESTING!! Remember when I said it was a neat idea that they were trying to apply science to the rules of the video? Well they manage to fuck that up in SPECTACULAR fashion! I mean sure, it’s probably a bad idea to piss off the ghost girl by taking lightly her evil powers, but can someone explain what conclusions the not-so-good doctor was trying to draw, why the volunteers were all hanging out in a secret party room, or even why the hell this had to be a secret from the university to the point that they have to do it somewhere only reachable from ONE elevator using a special key!? I would actually like to know what would happen if someone was locked in an empty yet well-lit and monitored room on the seventh day or if someone watched the video but stayed away from their phone! Hell, you wouldn’t even have to go THAT far! Just don’t answer it if you don’t recognize the number! There are so many ways they could have taken this aspect of the movie, but it’s ultimately meaningless as the entire experiment set up by Johnny Galecki just disappears by the end of the first act; leaving us with the rest of the movie that may be a bit more coherent, but is far less interesting.
So we lose all the new ideas by the thirty minute mark to instead have an hour long rehash of Samara’s backstory. Does this work at all? If I’m being generous, there are SOME moments in that hour that work like the aforementioned grave scene and the later moments with Vincent D’Onofrio, but other than that… no. It’s just all so tedious as we learn about characters we’ve never fucking met and all the new information we get isn’t half as interesting as they seem to think it is. Who cares about Samara’s parents!? Is any of that gonna explain how she ended up as a TV ghost!? OF COURSE NOT!! It’s all just filler because the filmmakers don’t seem to have a clear goal of what this should be or what makes the concept scary in the first place. Instead, it relies on fan service and a weak mystery to carry us through the lethargic running time that’s WAY too long even at an hour and forty minutes. Samara is rarely seen and barely does anything when she DOES show up, the actors are just there to spout lines and follow the plot’s breadcrumbs with no real personality of their own, and what we learn about Samara’s past is frankly pretty damn cliché that lands with a resounding thud once the film puts all the cards on the table. It’s a pretty dark story to be sure, but we don’t know the motivations of anyone involved; nor do we get a sense of what certain characters were like that we are apparently supposed to care about even though they’ve been dead for decades! It’s just so damn shallow and perfunctory, yet the movie ends up relying on it for any sense of dramatic weight with the end result being a total snooze fest.
Do you want to know what a REALLY good Ring movie would look like? Go read Junji Ito’s Uzumaki and you could make at least five BRILLIANT takes on this concept just by reading a few chapters! All you’d have to do is replace Spirals with Rings, and you’d be set! Okay, now you obviously couldn’t just copy it word for word (especially considering they’ve already made an Uzumaki movie), but it gets to the core of what The Ring is about (obsession and curiosity, strange imagery, loss of sanity, etc) better than what we ended up getting with this half assed effort. Sadly, Paramount wasn’t asking for MY advice when they were making this movie, and so we ended up with this uninspired mess that checks off a few boxes on the Ring checklist but does so without the slightest bit of heart or passion. No one cared when they were making this thing, so why should you? You shouldn’t need ME to tell you not to see this in a theater, but even when it’s on Netflix it’s simply not worth your time. Go watch the Japanese original, go watch the American remake, hell; you’d have better time watching the SEQUEL to the American remake! When the hell was the last time someone could say THAT about a movie!?
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